I didn't start masturbating until I lost my virginity, a little while after my 17th birthday. I had a bad time with the first, second, third, fourth and fifth times I (tried to) have sex; it was one of the most painful experience of my life, somewhere between having my ribs tattooed and tooth extraction with no anaesthetic.
I also didn't use tampons until I lost my virginity. Having never touched myself, I had no idea what was actually going on down there or where one should actually go. Diagrams in sex education lessons meant nothing to me. I couldn't quite match up what was on powerpoint presentations with what was happening below my waist. I had no natural curiosity about my own body and, like most teenagers, hated how it looked. Even being naked when I was alone made me very embarrassed and uncomfortable.
The female orgasm is not a feature in sex education, as we all know. Since we're only taught about sex as a bodily function rather than an activity most of us enjoy, it excludes anyone outside heterosexual relationships and inevitably focuses on men. "Sex is over when the male ejeculates" is the party line at school and so we all carry this attitude with us into our adult lives. I found I couldn't orgasm at all, not just from sex but from masturbation too.
I started telling men not to bother too much with touching me, as I didn't orgasm anyway. They took this as a challenge, trying to please me every way they could but it just put pressure on me to perform. It was about them being able to tell themselves what great lovers they were, rather than my pleasure or happiness. I was just a hurdle. Since you can't miss what you've never had, I still really enjoyed sex.
I had my first orgasm when I was 19, when I fell in love and felt comfortable with someone for the first time. I cried and phoned my friends. My high school boyfriend had insisted I shave off every pubic hair before he would touch my clit for the first time but this man loved me just as I was. It wasn't easy and the orgasms were still few and far between (and restricted to sex with him), but I was doing it.
Then he started abusing me.
In terms of sex, this affected me in two ways. The first is that in six years, I never got to say no to sex. I was constantly coerced into it, not allowed to sleep until I agreed. If this has happened to you, or is happening to you, this is rape. Being raped by your partner on a daily basis and having the choice to have sex (or not) taken from you tends to knock out your sex drive a bit. It was totally normal for me to sob on the toilet afterwards, or even during the act itself.
The second way this affected me, is that I just didn't trust him any more. I couldn't relax during sex, even if I wanted to do it. He used to make me strip naked and stand in the corner when he was angry with me and using my nakedness as a torture method made me less willing to be naked in front of him voluntarily. Since this made him angry, I started faking it.
I got out of the relationship and started having sex that was my choice again and it was fucking brilliant. I still wasn't having orgasms much, but what's new? I didn't orgasm from masturbating either. All the right feelings would build and then just peter away.
The reason I didn't look into why, and the reason for my orgasm problems are one and the same. We are fed such a narrow view of what it means to be a "hot", sexually attractive woman and I have always felt very strongly that I fall outside this view. Between the choreographed sex scenes in films and the Victoria's Secret show, I'm surprised women have the guts to undress in front of anyone. I have always felt I didn't "deserve" to be having sex because of how I look, both a ridiculous yet completely understandable concept. I felt my lack of orgasms was an appropriate punishment for not being slimmer. I can only marvel at the experience disabled, plus size or non-white women must have.
I have been spending more time naked. When I work out in my house, I don't put a t-shirt on over my sports bra so I have to look at my reflection in the living room windows and just get used to it. I surround myself with images of diverse women I know are beautiful and sexy. I'm in a relationship with someone who makes me feel completely comfortable again. All I need now is a vibrator and some alone time.